The Week I Share My Homework

What can I say? It’s been a busy week. And next week is stacking up to be just as bad. What that means is I was brain dead when it came time to come up with a blog post this week. So, I decided to get into the Way Way Back Machine, and where I came out was February, 2012. It was a simpler time then. There was a sane, black man in the White House, and I was attending The University of Oklahoma in pursuit of my second masters degree. With that in mind, what follows was a weekly class assignment for one of my feminism classes. No, I was not a feminism major, but you might say it was a minor. But, that part’s boring. Every week we were tasked with writing reports on the week’s reading. I chose this particular one because I’ve always liked the Virginia Woolf quote. And because, writing. Good luck next week, there might be new material then. Only time will tell.

…”give her a room of her own and five hundred a year, let her speak her mind and leave out half that she now puts in, and she will write a better book one of these days” (Woolf, 1929)[i].  Though not quite as forthright as Helene Cixous in The Laugh of the Medusa but the point is the same:  leave women alone and let them write.  Cixous points out that often women don’t write because they don’t feel that their writing is good enough but she calls upon women to write in order that their voices be heard in this phallocentric world. 

The work is quite clearly a call to arms, so to speak, to all women to not be afraid of their creativity, whatever way that creativity expresses itself.  Cixous uses sexual metaphors repeatedly to express her point.  She equates writing in secret with masturbation, which, in a way, it is.  It is a way of expressing yourself, of releasing pent-up feelings, of letting yourself go.  Cixous wants women to no longer be afraid of their bodies or their minds.  She wants women to follow whatever desires they have because if they don’t no one is going to do it for them.  The only way to survive in this man’s world is to finally speak out and be heard.  Cixous is trying to rouse women to action with her stirring words.  It’s a pep talk of phallic proportions. 

I think the comparison to Woolf is an accurate one, as Woolf also wanted women to write.  She wanted women to write the works of genius she knew they were capable of and wanted women to know they had permission to do so.  But her main point was that in order to create these works of genius women needed privacy and security, two things women often lacked.  She also wanted women to appreciate the works of those who came before.  She extolled women to pay homage to their foremothers for having the courage to write and pave the way.[ii]  Cixous, however, mainly just wanted women to not let anyone hold them back.  She knew that woman was her own worst enemy. 


[i]

Woolf, V. (1929). A Room of One’s Own. San Diego: Harcourt Brace and Company.

[ii] “Jane Austen should have laid a wreath upon the grave of Fanny Burney, George Eliot done homage to the robust shade of Eliza Carter…All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds” (Woolf, 1929).

Open Letter to Generation Z

            I couple nights ago I attended a writer’s open mic at a local café. It was sponsored by the local university and the venue is just a block off campus. Not a part of town I go to often and I had never been to that café before, but I had some idea of what to expect: college kids. And that’s who was there, a whole gaggle of them. I arrived early and began scoping out the crowd, trying to decide if I was going to sign up to read my work or not. I wasn’t sure how I, a forty-six year old butch lesbian, or my work, autobiographical fiction, would play with the crowd. I was relieved when a friend in my age range showed up and he confirmed that he was going to read, also autobiographical prose. So, I said the hell with it and put my name on the list.

            As before any event wherein I speak in front of people, I started to get a little nervous, but not nearly as nervous as I used to. College helped cure the larger part of my jitters by constantly having me give presentations of one type or another. I’ve done book reports, persuasive speeches, research presentations, debates, two theses defenses (one in front of a theater audience), and book readings of my own work. But, there were still some nerves. It was a new crowd to me, plus I was literally twice their age. I was worried that my work wouldn’t be relatable to them, and, to be fair, they generally weren’t my target audience, though I’d be happy to count them as such. So, I had some concerns.

            I contemplated texting a writer friend of mine to get her advice, sort of a WWAD (What Would April Do?) moment. Then, I realized what she would do, and that is that she would tell me to go for it. I’m sure she would have said something encouraging also, a textual pat on the back. With that in mind, I stood up to read my piece, trying to keep my voice from shaking. I found it difficult to make eye contact with the audience until the very end, where the text was written in such a way that it was more poignant to do so, because, though I had practiced, I didn’t have it memorized. That being said, the audience reacted the way I had hoped they would by laughing in the right places, knowing nods back and forth when I read something that they related to, and the proverbial snaps of approval.

            Granted, the applause and snaps are expected out of politeness, as they are a supportive group, but for me it was the laughs and knowing nods that did it. It wasn’t a polite reaction, it was a connection with the work, even if it was for a moment, one line maybe. Something I had written was relatable to them, and that was encouragement enough for me.  

            I was inspired to write the following poem, which I plan to read at the next open mic.

Open Letter to Gen. Z

Upon our last meeting, I was ruminating on our age difference,

and wondered if there was something, I could share with you,

pass on, as it were, considering my advanced years.

After thinking on it some time, I concluded

that anything I would have to say would be outdated

at best and condescending at worst. So, I almost chucked

it all, but I’m not a quitter, so I figured I’d give it the ol’

college try. College try, that’s just something we use to say.

As I went through my vast rolodex of topics I could talk about—

rolodex, that’s this thing that use to sit on desks and hold information—

like a paper version of Google. Anyway, as I was going through my mental

notes, I wondered what wisdom I could pass on to you—

I figured the best course of action would be to go from my own experience

and pass on some hard-learned truths.

Okay, here goes:

don’t fuck someone because they have a nice smile,

and definitely don’t marry them and let them ruin your credit.

Don’t go for style, go for substance, because pretty

doesn’t last but substance will stand by you.

Don’t apply for a job if you don’t understand what the qualifications mean,

and don’t turn your nose up taking a job you didn’t go to school for

because your landlord won’t give two shits that you aced all your English classes.

Remember what it’s like to be poor so that you don’t become an asshole

in your forties who thinks only slackers are on welfare and the homeless lack motivation.

March, and protest, and yell, and make your voices heard and do not go gentle into that good night…rage against the dying of the planet and all the bullshit and fuckery

that the generations before you have left you with.

Someone has to save this place.

Considering your inheritance, it’s amazing that your generation is so peaceful. But I understand.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. I’m tired of the dying, and I’m tired of the hate.

I’m tired of the lying and I’m tired of wondering how many people will die today.

So, I leave you with this: good luck. We’re counting on you. No pressure.

After all, how worse could it get?